Expanding Higher Ed Access With The Great College Essay Project

October 18, 2019

Transcripts, letters of recommendation, standardized tests — it’s the time of year when high school seniors are checking items off their college admissions to-do lists. And then there’s the all-important application essay, the chance to convey in a few hundred words why a dream school should extend an admissions offer. 

Hiring an essay coach to help craft college essays is common in many well-off communities — it’s not unusual for a coach to charge $1,000 or more for their services. But every student, regardless of their zip code or the amount of cash in their parent/guardian’s bank account, should have access to a trusted adult who can provide essay help. 

That’s why The Reach Higher Initiative and 826 National are thrilled to announce the launch of The Great College Essay Project, an effort running through the end of November 2019 to connect high school students in underserved communities across the United States to crucial college essay support. 

The Great College Essay Project combines the existing free college writing support that’s been provided by 826 National’s chapters since 2002 with Reach Higher’s expertise in creating a college-going movement. Through the project, students from underserved communities can access free, individualized essay coaching and feedback through dedicated workshops at 826’s nine chapters and four other cities nationwide.

“Over the last 17 years, we’ve seen how a caring adult sitting side-by-side with a young writer and providing individualized feedback to their college essay can be transformative,” says 826 National Network Growth Director Doug Keller. “In partnering with Reach Higher, we’re able to bring our effective approach to new communities, helping students across the country write their way into college.”

Students can work one-on-one with a volunteer on the essay topics of their choice, or get help on the seven Common App prompts. Whether they’re starting with a blank page or a close-to-final draft, the project provides free volunteer support at any phase of the writing process. In addition, free lesson plans are available at 826 Digital for teachers or school counselors nationwide who want to demystify the college essay process and support their students.

Indeed, the Reach Higher Initiative was launched in 2014 by a champion of college access: former First Lady Michelle Obama. Since 2014, the nonprofit has worked to ensure all students, particularly those who will be the first in their family to attend college and are from underserved communities, have the tools they need to access higher education and earn a postsecondary degree. The Common App — the nonprofit undergraduate admissions portal used by 900 colleges and universities nationwide —  acquired Reach Higher in 2018, giving the roughly 1 million students who apply to a post-secondary institution each year access to invaluable tools and resources.

“We started Reach Higher to help create a college-going culture and inspire underrepresented students to believe in themselves and go to college,” says Eric Waldo, Executive Director of Reach Higher and Vice President of Access and Equity at Common App. “We are thrilled to partner with 826 National to help students navigate the college application process and tell their authentic stories through their college essays.” 

The Great College Essay Project Events

Additional workshops are upcoming in New Orleans, Philadelphia, and Riverside, California. Please check back for updated information.

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